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Chest of drawers

Object number



Maker Unknown
Maker, formerly attributed to John Townsend, American, 1732/33–1809


32 × 35 1/2 × 19 3/4 in. (81.28 × 90.17 × 50.17 cm) Width, case: 33 3/4 in. (85.73 cm)



Current location

Private Collection


Probably made in Providence, Rhode Island
(view a map of Rhode Island)


Mahogany (primary); mahogany (rear block on proper left front foot); cherry or mahogany (vertical glue blocks on feet); yellow poplar (backing of drawer dividers); chestnut (rear brackets on feet, case bottom, drawer supports, front batten under top, back boards, and drawer linings); pine (rear batten under top and horizontal glue blocks on feet)




"A," "B," and "C," in chalk, at center interior of drawer backs; "1 Back," in graphite, on upper and middle exterior drawer backs; "c," in chalk, center of lower interior drawer front; numbers, in chalk, lower portion of interior case back


Hannah Sheldon (née Barnes) and Jeremiah Sheldon (1711–1784), Johnston, Rhode Island, or possibily their son Jeremiah Sheldon, Jr. (1762–1812), and his wife, Avis Smith Angell (1722–1811), Johnston, Rhode Island; by descent to their son Nicholas Sheldon (1800–1835) and his wife, Harriet Sweetser (1800–1885), Johnston, Rhode Island,1822; by descent to their daughter Mrs. Samuel Jacobs (née Helen Maria Sheldon, 1825–1906), New York,1842; by descent to her daughter Mrs. William J. Swift (née Maria Aborn Jacobs, 1848-1934), New York,1882; by descent to her son Lawrence Swift (1883-1966), New York,1910; by descent in the family to the current owner; consigned to Sotheby's, New York, January 20–21, 2012, lot 289; sold to private collection

Associated names

Jeremiah Sheldon
Descendant of Jeremiah Sheldon family
Hannah Barnes Sheldon
Jeremiah Sheldon Jr.
Avis Smith Angel
Nicholas Sheldon
Harriet Sweetser
Helen Maria Sheldon
Samuel Jacobs
Maria Aborn Jacobs
William J. Swift
Lawrence Swift
Elizabeth Maria Hurray


The top consists of two boards butted together. It is molded on three edges and supported by a beaded cove molding attached with brads and wood pins. Under the top are two horizontal battens to which it is screwed, three times to the front batten, twice to the rear. The battens are let into the two-board sides. The top and bottom rails are half-blind dovetailed to the case sides, as are the two drawer dividers. The two drawer dividers have cock-beading carved from the solid, whereas the top and bottom rail and case sides have cock-beading attached with rosehead nails. Inside the case, below the battens under the top boards are boards glued to the case sides (one missing) to prevent the upper drawer from tipping. In line with the drawer dividers are drawer supports, nailed with brads to the case sides. The two-board case back is nailed to the battens under the top, to the sides and to the bottom board with rosehead (and later) nails. The single-board case bottom is dovetailed to the case sides and flush with the bottom of the base molding. The blocked drawer fronts are carved from the solid. The convex shells on the upper drawer are applied. The drawer sides? tops are double-astragal molded, the tops of the drawer backs slightly chamfered at the rear, and they are all full height. The dovetails are finely cut, with half-pins above and below. The drawer bottoms are chamfered at the front and sides (where they are let into grooves in the drawer fronts and sides) and flat in the back, where they are nailed with roseheads to the drawer backs. Running strips are added to the bottom of the drawer sides. Medium size kerf marks are visible inside the drawer fronts, and small vertical strips are attached to the outer ends of the drawer backs. The bracket feet are attached to blocks mitered at the corners and attached to the case bottom. Below the blocks is a large shaped block. The rear feet are similarly configured, with the back rear brackets (a simple incurvate outline) fitting into grooves in the front rear brackets. A shaped rear bracket forms a face for the back rear brackets. Rosehead nails are visible under the base molding where the bottom rail is attached. Examined by P. E. Kane and W. S. Braznell, January 20, 2012; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.

See also


Sotheby's, New York, Important Americana: Furniture, Folk Art, Silver, Porcelain, Prints, and Carpets, sale cat. (January 20–21, 2012), 206–209, lot 289, ill.
Lita Solis-Cohen, "Americana Week Auction at Sotheby's," Maine Antique Digest (April 2012): 38-A.
Patricia E. Kane et al., Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650–1830, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2016), 455n3.